Enrico Taglietti’s Legacy

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The Architect, Enrico Taglietti, created the St Kilda Library to be more than a building of books with easy public access, he imagined it to be “a place where people feel more alive’. After wandering down the glary bustle of Carlisle Street, the St Kilda Library’s bold and embracing architecture fills a void in a landscape devoid of community entry. The building invites its visitors to sit on the ledges, gather in its courtyards, halls and garden and participate in the experience of the creative word.

Italian born, Mr Taglietti is one of the country’s national treasures and winner of Australia’s most prestigious Architectural award, the RAIA Gold Medal in 2007. The St Kilda library is one of his earlier works and was officially opened May 14 1973. The St Kilda library promotion committee was established in 1951 to rally support for its erection. Sheer determination paved the way through episodes that could have derailed the project on several occasions.

In 1954, Twelve Councillors refused to give the city a free library.

‘I rely on you ladies to get the councillors wives on our side’ quoted The Angus in its December issue 1954.

Within its walls; historian Kay Rowan gathers together and archives  the history of the precinct . She explains that the library should not only maintain the past but that it must also keep up with the technical advances of the day, such as Wi Fi and a DVD library for its members. Renovations to the building have been based on the growing needs of the community.

The changes to the building include a side entrance and a new front section. The original counter was situated under an elevated roof with a skylight, in what is now the middle of the building. This area now contains a clutter of shelves and some chairs. The new front section is expansive and incorporates elements of the original design such as slanted walls and a large lozenge shaped window that invites daydreamers to gaze out onto the busy street.

Unfortunately Mr Taglietti has not been impressed with the changes to the building and was baffled as to why he was not consulted or at least notified of alterations to the original building. The Architect claimed that the entry was a key aspect. Mr Taglietti was disappointed and hoped plans were being made to return it to its original state.

“Totally disregarded the original’ Mr Tagletti claims

In a recent interview he said that the original entry was the most important part of the project, he said that the entrance courtyard was “the nucleus” of the design. This area has since been built over despite the council overlay that regards the building as significant and claimed that the front , including the original air conditioner tower was ‘ integral to the design’.



Mr Tagletti said that “it was a shame’ and claimed that “ there should be protection ,my moral right in that building, it should have been recognised by another”

He claims that he should have been at  least informed. Mr Tagletti said that he spoke to the architect Mr Kai Chen  about possible revisions of St Kilda library in the future.

As Mr Taglettis prominence as an important Australian Architect grows, examples of his work become highly valued. Builders, M. Notkin Construction of South Caulfield, were appointed to construct the building which cost $417,000 at the time,  the current price of an apartment in the area. The Brutalist design is a contemporary period piece of 1960-70’s architecture and within the interior, a mural by Mirka Mora adds to the artistic collateral of the project.

“Visitors may then be able to relax around coffee tables, admiring or criticizing displays of paintings…Mr Taglietti wrote in his original proposal.

The architect planned for the building to be used as a refuge and within its thick walls and Japanese courtyards, the outside world keeps its noisy distance. Warm timber ceilings contrast the cool grey concrete that is sculptured into a solid earthy structure. The lofty outdoor roof provide shade and shelter as people gather  beneath it on the massive trapezoidal  walls ledges to chat or access the Wi Fi.

The Australian Library Journal of 1973 claimed that the building was ‘handsome and visually exciting’

Love it or hate it the commanding design cannot be ignored. St Kilda residence will remember the original design and have either welcomed or loathed the changes. The renovations and alterations to the use of the building may create a piece of patchwork architecture or a beautiful addition in its own right. The building is a St Kilda architectural treasure in area renown for its period buildings. It was designed to welcome the diverse population of the area where the famous, infamous, ordinary and transitory live side by side.

By April Forward Nelson



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